Alabama Football: 4 Things Standing in the Tide's Way of a National Title
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One team winning three consecutive titles is one of the biggest rarities in sports.
That is the proverbial phrase that will be the elephant in the room for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide this fall.
Considering that no major college or pro sports team has accomplished the feat since the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-02, history is an indicator of just how tough this task can be.
However, no one has mastered the art of getting players to consistently play against a standard instead of strictly focusing on results like Saban.
There are on-field issues to address as well, such as retooled units in the trenches on both sides of the ball and in the secondary.
That plus a host of hungry challengers in the nation’s toughest conference stand in the way of Alabama’s pursuit of its 16th national title in school history.
Find out more about the four toughest tasks that Alabama must conquer in order to capture its third consecutive national title.
4. SEC Challengers
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While the Tide’s schedule appears to be favorable in helping assist the team's quest toward another title, the SEC’s muscle in the West assures that there will be potential pitfalls this season.
The same trio of SEC powers that engaged in 60-minute slugfests with the Tide in 2012 all return enough firepower to potentially be Top 10 teams this fall.
The much-anticipated showdown with Texas A&M on Sept. 14 will have the nation’s attention, as should the Nov. 9 clash at home against LSU.
Assuming the Tide pass both of those tests, the SEC title game could be another thriller if one of the assumed favorites in the East (Georgia, Florida or South Carolina) makes it to Atlanta.
3. Rebuilding the Trenches
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One of the biggest factors in Alabama’s recent run of success has been their dominance in the trenches.
No team in the country has been able to run the ball at will while stopping others from gaining any momentum moving the ball on the ground like the Tide have.
Alabama must replace three starters on the offensive line and two-thirds of its defensive
line. While most of those players have earned a significant amount of reps over their careers, it may be unrealistic to expect them to immediately play up to the same standards as their predecessors.
Whereas both line units provided an anchor for the mostly youthful units surrounding them a year ago, Alabama will have to rely on an explosive cast of skill players on offense and an experienced group of linebackers on defense to help bring along the new faces in the trenches this fall.
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The concern in the trenches may be minimal when compared to the situation in the secondary—specifically at corner.
Senior John Fulton—who has been unable to practice in spring, thus far, due to his recovery from offseason toe surgery—has struggled with injuries throughout his career. The Tide’s other projected top corner is Deion Belue, who struggled mightily at times a year ago.
Sophomore Geno Smith appears to have a bright future and could challenge for one of the top two spots, but even depth is a concern, considering that Saban switched a trio of offensive players to corner at the beginning of spring practice.
Without the luxury of having a standout the caliber of the departed Dee Milliner, the Tide’s group of corners may endure some growing pains, especially early in the season.
However, having a pair of veteran safeties in Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will somewhat ease the pressure on the situation at corner.
1. Staying on Top Is Harder Than Getting There
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As long as Nick Saban is on the sidelines, you can bet that his teams will be prepared for any and every challenge along the way.
The return of senior quarterback A.J. McCarron ensures that leadership will not be an issue.
However, Alabama has had the good fortune of bouncing back from losses in November to make it to the BCS title game in each of the last two seasons.
With the constant pressure of trying to stay on top of the mountain certain to be a backdrop for the upcoming season, the Tide’s room for error this season will be as thin as ever.
Despite the issues noted above, there are several reasons—Saban’s process, McCarron, and a number of impact players on both sides of the ball being a few—that Alabama will likely be the odds-on favorite to add another crystal football to its trophy case.